How to clock my writing speed?

I want to clock my current (non-shorthand) writing speed, so I can compare it to later when I become good at Gregg Simplified.

Are there any tools or methodologies for doing this? Can I simply grab any random text and see how fast I transcribe it by hand? Is there a formula for words per minute?


(by sonjachick for everyone)

21 comments Add yours
  1. Official tests usually average 1.4 syllables per word. A passage with fewer, longer words is usually easier to write, as long as they're words you're familiar with.

    I don't worry about an exact, official speed, but I'm not advertising my services. All I need is a number for my logs so I can see progress.

    You can expect higher speeds if you're familiar with the field. You'll have outlines and maybe even brief forms handy for the technical terms. In some contests, they had three parts. I don't have the page bookmarked, but I think they were Jury Charge (lots of long standard phrases), Testimony, and Prose, and the winning speeds were quite different for the three passages.

    Shorthand should be timed from dictation. It's a different skill — it feels really weird the first few times — and highlights problem areas. When using written source, you might go slow on some bits but still have a good average. On the other hand, it's an easy way to get a starting number.

    It's worth watching Michael's videos. The gap between the speaker and the writing is normal. Professionals often "carry" 5-10 words.

    It's good to "push" a passage to 10 and then 20 wpm faster than you're comfortable with, getting down at least something for each word, to break any speed barriers, then finish the session with your comfortable speed, so you reinforce good penmanship.

  2. I think any shorthand diction files would be fine.  They dno't dictate in shorthand of course, so you can use it for clocking any type of writing or any type of shrothand.    If you decide to compare it to your longhand after you learn or get good at shorthand, then your longhand may be faster.  Mine is pretty fast and I think part of that is due to writing fast shorthand (and learning SpeedWriting which is a very abbreviated longhand and changing how to write some longhand letters).  At least that seems to be for me.  I notice when I write in longhand and someone else doesn, I write faster.  I also think I type faster due to trying to transcribe my shorthand as fast as I wrote it LOL.  So it's helped all around. Debbi

  3. Yes I meant my longhand writing speed, to compare the speed to, say, a year from now when I'm good at Gregg.

    I heard there is some sort of formula where "word" is defined as a certain number of characters and not as actual words.

  4. I'm not using shorthand so much for transcribing what somebody is saying. I'm using it more for my own writing when I'm on the go and not near a computer and need to write as fast as I think. I guess it comes to the same, eh?

  5. Graded dictation, the term used to mark up text to be dictated at different speeds, is based on 5 characters (including spaces).  That is, each word consists of 5 characters.  Therefore, to dictate at 40 wam (words a minute), you would dictate 10 5-character words every 15 seconds.  50 wam would require 12.5 5-char words to be dictated every 15 seconds, and 80 wam would require dictating 20 5-char words every 15 seconds.    

  6. The Gregg texts were marked in what is called "standard word."  The average word has 1.4 syllables.  The words were counted in groups of 20 standard words.  I think for your purposes of timing your longhand writing speed, George's suggestion of setting an egg timer and writing til the bell rings would give you a pretty good idea of your writing speed.  Typically, you can write longhand at about 40 wpm.   The word counting is important for giving timed dictation.  Clocking longhand speed doesn't lend itself to the standard word thing because you have to write all the silent letters, etc.  Also, not all words are standard 1.4 syllables.  The more dense the material, the higher the syllable intensity.  All that means is that there's more longer words in the piece.  Usually, the more technical the vocabulary the higher syllable density you will have.  To illustrate, "thank you for your letter of May 18" is simpler to write than "by a fair and credible preponderance of the evidence" (which to be completely honest has a great reporting style phrase). 

  7. 5 characters per word is for typing, not dictation. For dictation, it's 1.4 syllables per word. Even using that standard, though, it's possible for two passages with the same number of "normal" words and the same number of syllables to be of different difficulties. That's why I don't worry overly much about exact speed.

  8. If you really think about it, 5 characters is roughly equivalent to 1.4 syllables of a word. Too, it is also impossible for you to mark up dictation materials in 1.4 syllables. However, I agree that there is no point in beloboring this because there are other means for you to practice dictation without being exact. Too there are an abundance of materials, as have been referenced on this site, for one to practice with.

  9. Dictation material is not marked at 1.4 syllables. It is marked by 10 or 20 standard words, which is equivalent to 14 or 28 syllables, because like it has been said, a standard word is 1.4 syllables. This is how it is done:

    1. Count the number of syllables in the passage.
    2. Divide the total number of syllables by 1.4 to get the total number of standard words. Write this number at the end of the passage.
    3. Mark the passage every 20 standard words (or 28 syllables).

    So for example, let's take this very famous passage:

    "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

    1. Counting the number of syllables:

    "I-pledge-a-lle-giance-to-the-flag-of-the-U-ni-teds-ta-tes-of-A-me-ri-ca-and-to-the-re-pu-blic-for-which-its-tands-one-na-tion-un-der-God-in-di-vi-si-ble-with-li-ber-ty-and-jus-tice-for-all" = 50 syllables

    2. Dividing by 1.4: 50/1.4 = 36 standard words

    3. Mark the passage every 28 syllables and write the number of standard words at the end of it.

    "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which [20] it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
    (36 standard words).

    The [20] means that there were 20 standard words in the previous phrase. The next phrase would be marked as [40], and so on. In other books, they use an ordinal number (1, 2, etc.), meaning the first group of 10 or 20 standard words for 1, the second group for 2, etc.

    I hope this clarifies the issue.

  10. " Typically, you can write longhand at about 40 wpm."

    This does seem to vary a great deal by writer, however.

    Something deep inside our brains seem to predetermine how fast we can write longhand (and presumably, shorthand). While my own pen seemingly flies while writing in longhand, in casual observation I have observed that other writers write visibly slower; I have witnessed longhand writers that seem downright poky.

    I clocked myself two times writing at 39 words per minute, but these were actual words; in Gregg-speak, I don't know how many wpm it would have been.

  11. I was initially drawn towards Gregg shorthand because of the severe limitations of longhand in trying to write as fast as I think.

    My typing speed is 91 WPM using a Dvorak keyboard (1 word = 5 characters), but it's not realistic to expect me to have a computer nearby at all times, especially when I'm out and about.

    I clocked my longhand writing speed today at 37 WPM (1 word = 1.4 syllables). I wrote as fast as I could while still being legible to me. I know my longhand is much faster than most people I know, but it feels so slow compared to the 100 to 280 WPM that people achieve using Gregg shorthand! It's amazing to think that after my Gregg proficiency improves with time and practice, I could easily quadruple my writing speed!

    Interestingly, my longhand is not cursive. I've been using all-caps block letters ever since I was little a kid in daycare. (I was literate very precociously.) I always felt more comfortable and faster using block letters in my personal notes, even after I was taught cursive in grade 1. And my handwriting has changed very little since age 4!

    See pictures at:

    See my Dvorak keyboard speed discussion at:

  12. Sonja, as a fellow Dvorak keyboardist, I want to say "it's nice to meet you." I've been a Dvorak typist for about six years now.

    Since this is a board about Gregg Shorthand, I apologize for highjacking the thread. Back to Gregg now…

  13. i just clocked myself at 47 wpm longhand. its weird cause my hand is frantically scrawling across the page at top speed, but when i'm writing shorthand my hand is visibly more relaxed/slower, yet i'm still getting about the same (maybe a little less) amount of info down. So….once i get to the point where my shorthand is just a little teensy bit faster, i'd be writing the equivalent wpm as my fastest, most frantic, unintelligible longhand! haha thats what i love about gregg, its like almost instant results but i know i gotta keep working at it to progress any more

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